Council agrees to sale of Harrogate's historic Crescent Garden offices

Crescent Garden offices
Crescent Garden offices

Harrogate Borough Council members have agreed to the sale of the town's historic Crescent Garden offices during a full council meeting last night (Wednesday).

Councillors approved the Cabinet's recommendations of a preferred bidder to purchase the site during an exempt session at the Extraordinary Meeting.

Following a failed sale of the council offices in 2015, the site was re-marketed earlier this year and attracted ten bids.

The sale of the landmark offices has attracted a wide-range of controversy with campaigners, including Harrogate's Lib Dems, calling for the building to be preserved.

However, Coun Graham Swift, cabinet member for Tourism, Economic Development and Enterprise stressed the chosen bidder would respect the building's "beautiful exterior".

He said: "All ten bids were evaluated against a set criteria, which considered not only the financial merits, but other important criteria such as the capability of the bidder and the long term benefit to the district.

"The bids which were considered included residential, commercial and community use. Some of the bids were solely for one use, while others were for a mixture of these uses. The recommended preferred bidder was approved by full council last night.

“We have been keen to ensure that the chosen bid preserves the beautiful exterior of the building, reflects the buildings history and recognises its contribution to the character of the town."

Coun Swift added that the chosen bidder could not be revealed at this stage due to "commercial sensitivity" but would be announced after negotiations had finished.

The sale of the Crescent Gardens site, agreed last June as it was no longer "fit for purpose" for council use, has prompted much debate in the town.

Coun Pat Marsh, leader of the Lib Dems, has led calls for the civic heart of the building to be retained, including the council chamber, mayor's parlour and the stairway.

However, in March, the council overwhelmingly rejected these proposals with the leader of the council, Coun Richard Cooper (Cons) slamming the "back of a fag packet" analysis behind it.

Last week, Coun Cooper revealed the importance of the sale of the building, claiming that it was costing £1m a year to needlessly maintain.

He said: "That money will fund things like grants, parksand swimming pools.

"Money from government is reducing. We need to make up that gap somehow or we are going to have to start scaling things back.

"The range of uses for which people have made bids are things like retail, office, housing and a mix of all for community use as well."

Work on the new £9m Knapping Mount headquarters is already underway and is expected to be completed by April 2017.

Last year, estate agents valued the building at between £2-5million.